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DEFENCE 

by 

OLIVER COWDERY 




A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the 

BOOK OF MORMON 

... ./' 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2016 


https://archive.org/details/cowdery1839 


DEFENCE 


IN A 

REHEARSAL OF MY GROUNDS 
FOR 

SEPARATING MYSELF 
FROM THE 
LATTER DAY SAINTS 

BY OLIVER COWDERY 
Second Elder of the Church of Christ. 


This Defence is not protected by ct copy- 
right, as I wish no man to be confined alone 
to my permission in printing what is meant 
for the eyes and knowledge of the nations of 
the earth. 


"God doth not walk in crooked paths; 
Neither doth he turn to the right hand, 
Nor the left; neither doth he vary 
From that which he hath said." 


Pressley's Job Office, 
Norton, Ohio, 
1839 . 


DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD: — I offer you a ''Defence'' 
which I am grieved to make, but my opposers have put 
me to the necessity, and so far as my memory serves, 
I pledge my veracity for the correctness of the account. 

I deny that I have ever conspired with any, or ever 
exerted any influence to destroy the reputation of the 
First Elder, although evidence which is to be credited as- 
sures me that he has done everything he could to injure 
my standing, and his influence has been considerably 
exerted to destroy my reputation and, I fear, my life. 

You will remember in the meantime, that those who 
seek to villify my character have been constantly en- 
couraged by him. There was a time when I thought my- 
self able to prove to the satisfaction of every man that 
the translator of the Book of Mormon, was worthy of the 
appellation of a Seer and a Prophet of the Lord, and in 
which he held over me a mysterious power which even 
now I fail to fathom; but I fear I may have been deceived, 
and especially so fear since knowing that Satan has led 
his mind astray. 

1. When the Church of Christ was set up by revela- 
tion, he was called to be First Elder, and I was called 
to be the Second Elder, and whatever he had of Priest- 
hood (about which I am beginning to doubt) also had I. 

2. But I certainly followed him too far when accept- 
ing, and reiterating, that none had authority from God 
to administer the ordinances of the Gospel, as I had then 
forgotten that John, the beloved disciple, was tarrying on 
earth and exempt from death. 

I am well aware that a rehearsal of these things at 
this day will be unpleasant reading to the First Elder; 
yet so it is, and it is wisdom that it should be so. With- 
out rehearsing too many things that have caused me to 
lose my faith in Bro. Joseph's seership, I regard his 
frequent predictions that he himself shall tarry on the 
earth till Christ shall come in glory, and that neither the 


rage of devils nor the malice of men shall ever cause 
him to fall by the hand of his enemies until he has seen 
Christ in the flesh at his final coming, as little short of 
a piece of blasphemy; and it may be classed with that 
revelation that some among you will remember which 
sent Bro. Page and me so unwisely to (3) Toronto with 
a prediction from the Lord by Urim and Thummim that 
we would there find a man anxious to buy the First El- 
der's copyright. I well remember we did not find him, 
and had to return surprised and disappointed. But so 
great was my faith, that, in going to Toronto, nothing but 
calmness pervaded my soul, every doubt was banished, 
and I as much expected that Bro. Page and I would 
fulfill the revelation as that we should live. And you 
may believe, without asking me to relate the particulars, 
that it would be no easy task to describe our desolation 
and grief. 

Bro. Page and I did not think that God would have 
deceived us through "Urim and Thummim,” exactly as 
came the Book of Mormon; and I well remember how 
hard I strove to drive away the foreboding which seized 
me, that the First Elder had made tools of us, where we 
thought, in the simplicity of our hearts, that we were di- 
vinely commanded. 

And what served to render the reflection past ex- 
pression in its bitterness to me, was, that from his hand 
I received baptism, by the direction of the Angel of God 
whose voice, as it has since struck me, did most mys- 
teriously resemble the voice of Elder Sidney Rigdon, 
who, I am sure had no part in the transactions of that 
day, as the Angel was John the Baptist, which I doubt 
not and deny not. When I afterward first heard Elder 
Rigdon, whose voice is so strikingly similar, I felt that 
this "dear” brother was to be in some sense, to me un- 
known, the herald of this church as the Great Baptist 
was of Christ. 

4. I never dreamed however, that he would influence 
the Prophet, Seer and Revelator to the Church of the Lat- 
ter Day Saints, into the formation of a secret band at Far 
West, committed to depredations upon Gentiles and the 


actual assassination of apostates from the church, which 
was done in June last and was only one of many wrong 
steps. 

These are facts which I am rehearsing, and if they 
shall be called in question, I am able to establish them 
by evidence which I can bring forward in abundance. 

Still, although favored of God as a chosen witness 
to bear testimony to the divine authority of the Book of 
Mormon, and honored of the Lord in being permitted, 
without money and without price, to serve as scribe dur- 
ing the translation of the Book of Mormon, I have some- 
times had seasons of skepticism, in which I did seriously 
wonder whether the Prophet and I were men in our sober 
senses when he would be translating from plates through 
"the Urim and Thummim" and the plates not be in sight 
at all. 

But I believed both in the Seer and in the "Seer 
Stone," and what the First Elder announced as revela- 
tion from God, I accepted as such, and committed to 
paper with a glad mind and happy heart and swift pen; 
for I believed him to be the soul of honor and truth, a 
young man who would die before he would lie. 

Man may deceive his fellow man, deception may 
follow deception, and the children of the wicked one 
may seduce the unstable, untaught in the ways oi right- 
eousness and peace, for I felt a solemn awe about me, 
being deep in the faith, that the First Elder was a Seer 
and Prophet of God, giving the truth unsullied through 
"Urim and Thummim," dictated by the will of the Lord, 
and that he was persecuted tor the sake of the truth 
which he loved. Could I have been deceived in him? 

I could rehearse a number of things to show either 
that I was then deceived, or that he has since fallen 
from the lofty place in which fond affection had deemed 
him secure. 

1 remembered his experience as he had related it 
to me, and lacking wisdom, 1 went to God in prayer. 

I said; "O! Lord, how dark everything is! Let thy glory 


lighten it, and make bright the path for me. Show me 
my duty. Let me be led of thy Spirit.” 

Shall I relate what transpired? I had a message 
from the Most High, as from tne midst of eternity; for 
the vail was parted and the Redeemer Himself, clothed 
in glory, stood before me. And He said: 

"After reproving the Latter Day Saints for their cor- 
ruption and blindness in permitting their President, Jos- 
eph Smith, Jr., to lead them forth into errors, where I 
led him not, nor commanded him, and saying unto them, 
'Thus saith the Lord,' when I said it not unto him, thou 
shalt withdraw thyself from among them." 

And I testify that Jesus whose words I have been re- 
hearsing, hath even so commanded me in an open vision. 

The Lord revealed to me that the First Elder is lead- 
ing the Saints astray, and ordered me to quit them after 
delivering the message which this "Defence" delivers. 
I shall ever remember this expression of the Saviour's 
grace with thanksgiving, and look upon his amazing 
goodness to me with wonder. 

When I had sufficiently recovered my selfpossession 
to ask in regard to the errors into which Joseph Smith, 
Jr., was taking the Saints, the Redeemer instructed me 
plainly: "He hath given revelations from his own heart 
and from a defiled conscience as coming from my mouth 
and hath corrupted the covenant and altered words which 
I had spoken. He hath brought in high priests, apostles 
and other officers, which in these days, when the written 
Word sufficeth, are not in my church, and some of his 
deeds have brought shame to my heritage by the shed- 
ding of blood. He walketh in the vain imaginations of 
his heart, and my Spirit is holy and does not dwell in 
an unholy temple, nor are angels sent to reveal the great 
work of God to hypocrites." 

I bowed my face in shame and said: "Lord! I in- 
treat thee, give me grace to bear thy message in print 
where I fear to take it by word of mouth." 


And he said, "The grace is given thee," and he van- 
ished out of my sight. 

Prepare your hearts, O ye Saints of the Most High, 
and come to understanding. The prophet hath erred and 
the people are gone astray through his error. God's 
word is open. We may read it. There is no "First Pres- 
idency" there, no "High Priesthood" save that of Christ 
himself, no Patriarch to the church, and wonderful to tell, 
the "First Elder" hath departed from God in giving us 
these things, and in changing the name of the church. 

Oh, the misery, the distress and evil attendant upon 
giving heed unto the "doctrines of men!" The gospel 
has been perverted and the Saints are wandering in 
darkness, while a full cup of suffering is poured upon 
them. A society has been organized among them to 
inflict death upon those who are deemed apostates, with 
the knowledge and sanction of the First Elder. 

This, I confess, is a dark picture to spread before 
those whom I am to warn, but they will pardon my plain- 
ness when I assure them of the truth of what I have writ- 
ten. 


Bearing this message to them is the hardest work of 
my life, although many have been the privations and 
fatigues which have fallen to my lot to endure for the 
Gospel's sake since April 5th, 1829. 

It is disgraceful to be led bv a man who does not 
scruple to follow his own vain imagination, announcing 
his own schemes as revelations from the Lord. 

And I fear he is led by a groundless hope, no better 
than the idle wind or the spider's web. Having cleared 
my soul by delivering the message, I do not deem it 
necessary to write further on the subject now. 

Jesus has saved men in all ages and saves them 
now, and not by our Priesthood either. The "First El- 
der" errs as to that. The Lord has said, long since, and 
his word remains steadfast as the eternal hills, that to 
him who knocks it shall be opened, and whosoever will, 


may come and partake of the waters of life freely; but 
a curse will surely fall upon those who draw near to 
God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, 
while their hearts are far from him. 

I no longer believe that all the other churches are 
wrong. 

Get right, O! ye people, get right with God, and 
may the Lord remove his judgments from you, preserve 
you in his kingdom from all evil, and crown you in Christ. 
Amen. 

March 3, 1839 O. COWDERY. 




David Whitmer said, in the presence of witnesses 
and at his home in Richmond, Missouri, that he attended 
Oliver Cowdery, who died at Richmond, Missouri, Sun- 
day, March 3, 1850, on his deathbed, and that during 
his last sickness Oliver admonished him to be faithful 
to his testimony for it was true. "It is recorded in the 
American Cyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, 
that I, David Whitmer, have denied my testimony as 
one of the three witnesses to the divinity of the Book of 
Mormon; and that the other two witnesses, Oliver Cow- 
dery and Martin Harris, denied their testimony to that 
book. I will say once more to all mankind, that I have 
never at any time denied that testimony or any part 
thereof. I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver 
Cowdery or Martin Harris ever at any time denied their 
testimony. They both died reaffirming the truth of the 
divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I was pres- 
ent at the deathbed of Oliver Cowdery, and his last 
words were, 'Brother David, be true to your testimony 
to the Book of Mormon.' He died here in Richmond, 
Missouri, on March 3, 1850. Many witnesses yet live 
in Richmond, who will testify to the truth of these facts, 
as well as to the good character of Oliver Cowdery." — 
Reorg. Ch. Hist., Vol. 1, Pg. 49 and David Whitmer's "Ad- 
dress," Pg. 8.